BioWare and Mass Effect veteran Mac Walters has discussed his reasons for departing the studio after 19 years to begin work with a fresh team on a new sci-fi franchise.
In an interview with MinnMax, Walters detailed the various factors involved in his departure, from the desire to work on something brand new and not feeling able to within BioWare or EA, to the positive experience of working on the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition trilogy remaster with a small and “scrappy” team acting as a reminder of his early days at the studio and serving as a positive moment to make his exit.
Discussing the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition project, Walters described its approval by EA as something relatively “unplanned”, compared to the careful assignment of teams long in advance to work on the studio’s typical fare: mammoth big budget RPGs. This led to a different way of working which brought back fond memories, he said.
“The way to make that successful was really for me to be little bit rogue,” Walters said. “A little bit sort of entrepreneurial in how we were going to build this out with the people we had and people we could get without disrupting other teams in the meantime.
“That process reminded me a lot of early BioWare, we were a small scrappy team and people wearing lots of different hats,” Walters continued. That small team bred camraderie, and the chance to work with different people external to BioWare as he brought in a co-development partner was also appealing, he continued.
“This is the future – this is how AAA gaming needs to go when you look at how complex and challenging it is,” he said. “And so a lot of that was reminding me of… y’know, call it the good old days, or whatever.”
Walters discussed his desire to work on new IP again, and work with a small, “scrappy” team to put something together. But the sense he got from within the company and within EA was that this wouldn’t be possible any time soon.
“To be fair, I asked around: ‘can we do something like this with BioWare, is there an oppurtunity at EA?” Walters said. “And it became pretty clear there probably wouldn’t be, at least for the forseeable future. That’s when I started thinking, ‘no, I think I’m done’.”
The “bow” on all of that was Walters’ positive experience working on Legendary Edition, which was also well received critically and commercially. It was an upbeat swansong on which to leave the series behind.
“I don’t want to do any more Mass Effect after this,” Walters said. “Why tempt fate?”
Walters has discussed his tenure working on Mass Effect at length with Eurogamer on several occaisons – in an in-depth interview with our Bertie on dreaming up plans for an entire trilogy of games, and with myself on how the team wrestled that trilogy of storylines and characters to a close.
Last month, Walters told Eurogamer that his new narrative-focused studio – the Vancouver-based, NetEase-backed Worlds Untold – will “avoid painting ourselves in a corner”. Its first project will be a near-future action-adventure game set “in a breathtaking world filled with mystery and exploration”.